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Florida-Based Company to Purchase Press Democrat

Reporters and readers react. Sale could impact local jobs, change the paper's editorials and reporting focus.

Press Democrat execs announced Monday that the company's parent company — the New York Times Co. — is selling the 155-year-old paper, which was sold in 1985 to the Times Co. by the Finley family, according to the newspaper.

Read the full story on the Press Democrat here.

The company reported the sale throughout the day Monday, adding news as it broke in the Santa Rosa-based headquarters. The article stated:

"The Times Co. has shed assets as it tries to focus on its anchor newspapers: The New York Times, The Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune."

Halifax Media, based in Florida, will acquire the Press Democrat, along with the Petaluma Argus-Courier, the North Bay Business Journal and 13 other papers. See that full list here.

While large newspaper companies continue to merge and slim down newsrooms that already operate on shoestring budgets — most recently with MediaNews, who has restructured a group of Bay Area-based papers — staffrooms have continued to be broken up, largely with layoffs and buyout packages offered to veteran staffers.

American Journalism Review pointedly said: "What this means for advertisers, readers and the newspapers' employees remains to be seen. The one certainty is that plenty of people are worried."

Alan Mutter, who writes a blog called "Reflections of a Newsosaur" reflected on the newspaper industry recently. Poynter said that "his figures confirm suspicions that newsrooms have been hit harder than other departments at newspaper companies. He figures that a fifth of the 3,775 job losses that Paper Cuts counted in 2011 came from newsrooms," Poynter wrote.

The future of the media industry looks bleak.

"The decline in newsroom employment has been twice as great since 2007," Poynter continued.

Read that full blog here.

Press Democrat reporters yesterday fretted for their jobs, following a "surprise" morning announcement when news of the sale broke.

"Less than a week before Christmas, the Press Democrat building isn’t the cheeriest or most expectant that it’s ever been," reporters said in another story. "So for the moment each of us 300-some employees can only wonder if we will have a job next year, and whether Halifax will keep the PD or or sell it, and what changes are in store for this nearly 155-year-old newspaper."

The story struck readers immediately, growing to the most read story of the day, generating nearly 200 Facebook recommends betwewen two articles and 30 comments.

Readers spoke out — partly about concerns that the paper is right-leaning, about another newspaper consolidation, consoling reporters who could lose jobs and about the state of the media industry.

"The Press Democrat essentially destroyed its own prospects in this era of electronic media by refusing to cover the important issues of the day and having delusions that 'local' news trumped important finance, business, and other news that readers could use to better their lives," one reader wrote.

Another countered: "I for one appreciate the local coverage."

Reader Shaun Hensley said criticized the corporation.

"Corporate owned press changes hands? Is this really newsworthy? What will change editorially, if anything? I predict continued defense of the status quo," he wrote.

One said the that the ... "fact that a regional daily newspaper with a local monopoly has such declining revenues is a bad sign. Even in our electronic era, a daily newspaper with a staff of local reporters and editorial writers is a valuable part of our community."

A Rohnert Park reader empathized with employees, noting how difficult it is to work through uncertainty — something she was familiar with after working for State Farm in Rohnert Park when they announced they were leaving the 33-acre hub.

One commenter wrote, "maybe now folks will realize how local media here in the North Bay is both extremely vital, and truly, amazingly fragile."

Press Democrat Publisher Bruce Kyse reportedly said that a "vast majority" of staffers would be offered their jobs, with comparable salaries and benefits, but reporters said that they're waiting.

"We have no idea, not yet, at least, why Halifax is buying an entire group of papers and what it thinks of the Press Democrat. Or what it plans to do with it," one article stated. "So we wait. I and the people I work with at the PD love this paper and our roles in it and it our community. We hope the new owners will aspire only to make this newspaper better."

Print circulation continues to fall. Over the last decade, Press Democrat circulation has dropped 38 percent, to around 56,000 copies. The Argus Courier has a weekly circulation of 5,800 and the North Bay Business Journal prints about 7,500 copies per week.

 Times officials have said they expect the “vast majority” of employees will be offered jobs at comparable salary and benefits, Kyse said.

Scott Macunga December 20, 2011 at 10:46 PM
The Press Democrat is being sold because the New York Times Company is running out of money. Already it had to accept a major buy-in from MEXICO to stay in business. It won't be long, now...
John.Maher December 21, 2011 at 03:28 PM
The Times they are a changin'. (Sorry.)
bruce mallon December 21, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Hello India Dependant Journal, assembled in India each nite printed in Fremont each morning. Read by the clueless each day. Welcome to American news.
pb December 21, 2011 at 04:20 PM
The advertising model for news does not work. And online, you get what you pay for. What we need is subscriber-supported, independent investigative reporting. That said, the PeeDee an abomination and it's demise (hopefully) will leave a space for genuine journalism to fill. Things are looking up!
Bob C December 21, 2011 at 04:36 PM
The PD is an excellent paper. Having watched the Los Angeles Times go from great to mediocre was very sad. I'd hate to see the same thing happen to the Press Democrat -- which will probably need to change to the Press Republican, given who is about to but it. And the Argus may very likely have to be closed down. This is a sad day.
AvoidTheRedPill December 21, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Or maybe Press Corporate... Monopolies abound, and they are never good.
Petalumasaurus December 22, 2011 at 02:57 PM
My first reaction to this was that getting out from under the NYT Co. could be good. I kind of think of there being two options in the newspaper business: Slowly fade away, or radical change. Even "major" changes would not keep up with the demographic and behavioral shifts towards digital, social, mobile, hyperlocal... etc. You're reading this on Patch, y'know? But then I read an article about Halifax Media and how they are handling things at the first of their newspaper acquisitions, the Daytona News Journal. http://flaglerlive.com/20095/michael-redding-news-journal Wow -- so it looks like Halifax introduces a third option: Don't fade away, don't radically change, just toy with the paper and try gimmicks to scratch out a few extra pennies (while -- oops -- losing 10% of readership in 6 months). This is like the "death by pricks" scenario, small ball, like offering shark seasoning to whomever bails the most water out of the sinking boat. Fortunately for employees, it doesn't sound like they gutted previous acquisitions. Just get ready for a little... prick!
Max December 22, 2011 at 07:58 PM
Bob C, I beg to differ. The PD is a far throw from "excellent", it's staff has proven themselves unable to report the news objectively nor thoroughly. Both the PD and the Argus have a very clear agenda, which has gotten in the way of good journalism and has made the two newspapers irrelevant to the communities that they serve. The best reporting in either of these two papers, is typically not done by their local staffers but rather, are pulled off the news wire for reprint. If you think the PD is an excellent paper, then you haven't been aware of what is going on around you. I recommend you look into the issues firsthand and then compare that information to what is being written and packaged for our consumption.
p.a. earnshaw December 23, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Just ran into this blog with some meaty, intellegent conversation! The comments here re: the PD are correct except the one that about the paper being "excellent." The paper has been disconnected from the community and advertisers for years and arrogant and unbalanced politically.And then there is news judgement and just decent coverage...investigative journalism? The new guys will have an opportunity for redirection but they are running out of time...its takes at least two years to turn a paper around but it can be done...only if they are able to create some bond with and serve the community. Hopefully the contributing staffers in editorial who care will be retained in the shuffle...there are a few people they should consider rehiring.

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